The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) recently announced the latest Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey results on substance abuse trends among teens. The study, also known as the National High School Senior Survey, is conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research. It’s been running since 1975, and it sends out questionnaires to a sampling of teenagers. Right now, about 50,000 8th, 10th and 12th-grade students take the survey annually.

The survey isn’t solely focused on drug abuse – it also asks questions about things like career and educational plans, views on gender and race, opinions on the government, and other topics. One of the drug-related topics it does cover are the substance use patterns of full-time college students to their peers who do not attend college. According to the results from the 2017 data, more than 13 percent of young adults not in college report daily, or near daily, marijuana use. That’s nearly three times as high among non-college young adults, and it represents an all-time high.

This is the first year that questions about marijuana vaping have been including on the survey, and interestingly, those young adults not in college have a higher rate of past month use when vaping – 7.8 percent vs. 5.2 percent.

Among college students, alcohol use is more common than with those not in college- 62 percent vs. 56.4 percent. Part of the explanation for college students preferring alcohol probably has a lot to do with the perception that college is a time when everyone drinks. It’s an accepted part of college life and something that many parents and even school administrators turn a blind eye to. College students are also more likely to mix alcohol with energy drinks – 31.5 percent vs. 26.7 percent.

The non-college group has a much higher rate of cigarette smoking. Daily smoking for young adults not in college is 14.4 percent, but among their peers who are in college, it’s only two percent. When it comes to vaping nicotine, the non-college group was 7.9 percent vs. 6 percent for those in college.


Opioid use is actually declining in both groups. Misuse of Vicodin in the past year dropped from 8.4 percent in 2009 to 1.1 percent in 2017 for the college students, and it went from 11.2 percent to 1.8 percent among the non-college group.

Synthetic drug use is lower in college students than the non-college young adults. The use of synthetic cannabinoids like K2 and spice is 0.5 percent in the college students vs. 2.4 percent, and use of synthetic cathinones like bath salts is 0.2 percent vs. 1.5 percent.

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